Writer wins award for Kelly Schaefer memoir


Years before Warsaw author Michelle Weidenbenner penned “Fractured Not Broken,” a literary agent told her the book would never sell.


The work — which was released in 2015 and has a movie option — centers on Weidenbenner’s niece and Jasper native Kelly (Craig) Schaefer, whose life changed forever on a Colorado vacation in 1999 when a drunk driver rendered her a quadriplegic at the age of 19.

Late last month, moments after Weidenbenner won a 2018 Author Academy Award in the category of memoir for the same book, the Warsaw woman was thrust in front of 400 people to give an acceptance speech and left those in attendance with a message of perseverance.

“My message was to never give up,” Weidenbenner, 61, said in a phone interview Thursday. “Because when that literary agent told me not to waste my time writing the book, I knew he was wrong, but I couldn’t do anything about it at the time.”

She continued: “So, I think my message was listen to your heart, listen to God and place bringing value to others in front of all else. When you can do that, you give people hope.”

Weidenbenner received the award at the Author Academy Awards ceremony, which was held at the Hilton Columbus/Polaris in Columbus, Ohio.

The Author Academy Awards are bestowed for literary merit and publishing excellence in the writing and publishing industry. They are presented annually by Author Academy Elite, a premium service provider for authors. More than 500 authors worldwide were nominated in 2018 for their work in 16 categories.

Weidenbenner and Schaefer started piecing “Fractured Not Broken” together in 2004, but put work on hold for about a decade while Weidenbenner published a handful of other novels.

According to Herald archives, the book puts readers in the car that night with Schaefer as a passenger as the drunk driver sped toward the car, lets them follow her from hospital to hospital and leads them through the struggle Schaefer faced as she adjusted to life in a wheelchair and accepted that she would likely never walk again.

Weidenbenner obtained police reports from the night of the accident and court documents from the drunk driver’s trial in 2000. She interviewed first responders and used the interviews to construct chapters of the memoir from the responders’ perspectives.

At the awards conference, the top 10 entrants in the memoir category spoke about their books, and Weidenbenner said those works also told difficult, intricate stories. She felt blessed that her book came out on top. Winning the award validated the effort she and Schaefer put into the book.

“This story is changing lives,” she said of the memoir. “It’s giving people hope that they didn’t think they had. So, it was worth persevering. It was worth telling and spending the time to tell it.”

Authenticity is the truest measure of courage, Weidenbenner said. She explained that above everything else, Schaefer was courageous in sharing the raw details of the real pain that comes with going from an athlete to a quadriplegic.

Weidenbenner’s message to those who haven’t read the book is simple.

“Miracles can happen in a way we don’t expect,” she said. “This is a love story that shouldn’t be missed.”

“Fractured Not Broken” can be purchased at Finishing Touches in Jasper or online at Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

For more information on the Author Academy Awards, visit authoracademyawards.com.

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